The white male club of late-night American talk show hosts is about to become a little less homogenous – if not a little less male – after the announcement that a black artist, Larry Wilmore, will fill the vaunted Comedy Central slot soon to be vacated by Stephen Colbert.
The decision will propel Wilmore into a high-profile 11.30pm ET position, following The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The new programme, The Minority Report, will start in January, replacing The Colbert Report on the departure of that show’s star to succeed David Letterman on CBS.
The relatively formulaic world of late-night talk shows has long been criticised for being led by an almost universally white and male cast of presenters. Slate magazine has commented that the only American institution equally as dominated by white men is the “priesthood leadership of the Mormon church” .
Wilmore’s new show, as the name suggests, will overtly address the paucity of black hosts within the genre. He will lead a panel of commentators, yet to be announced, who will address the issues of the day from a minority angle – much as Wilmore has been doing since 2006, as The Daily Show's ironically-titled “senior black correspondent”.
Recently, the comedian has had plenty of material to work with, following racist comments made by the anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
In a recent Daily Show appearance, Wilmore lambasted Sterling for making his alleged girlfriend take a picture of herself and the black basketball legend Magic Johnson down from Instagram.
“Really? Magic Johnson isn't good enough to be seen with your mixed-race mistress?” Wilmore said. “I mean, Magic Johnson, a man so universally respected, even HIV doesn't want to bring him down!”
Comedy Central said the new programme had been conceived by Stewart, who would produce it through his company Busboy Productions. The channel said the show would provide “a comedic look at news, current events and pop culture from unique perspectives not typically on display in late-night television”.
American TV comedy – particularly in its most prestigious guise, late night – has been strikingly adverse to change over the past 50 years. That other powerhouse of the medium, Saturday Night Live, was recently engulfed in criticism regarding its lack of diversity; in January it appointed its first black female cast member for seven years.
Wilmore, 52, has a distinguished track record as a comedy writer for shows including The Office, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Jamie Foxx Show. He also created a critically-praised series, The Bernie Mac Show.